What is the Glycemic Index & Glycemic Load and Why Should You Care?
You've probably noticed that the word "glycemic" sounds similar to the word "glucose." That's one tip that they have to do with sugars and carbs. Not only how much sugar is in foods, but more importantly, how it affects your blood sugar levels.
In general, diets that are high on the glycemic index (GI) and high in glycemic load (GL), tend to increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
But the negative side effects don't just end there! You don't have to be diabetic or be at risk of heart disease to consider the glycemic index and glycemic load of the foods you eat. If you are struggling with carb cravings, inability to lose weight, low energy or mood swings, then you need to balance the glycemic load within your diet!
FUN FACT: Starches like those in potatoes and grains are digested into sugar; this is because starch is just a bunch of sugars linked together. Digestive enzymes break those bonds so that the sugars become free. Then those sugars affect your body the same way that eating sugary foods do.
So what is the glycemic index?
As the name suggests, it "indexes" (or compares) the effect that different foods have on your blood sugar level. Then each food is given a score from 0 (no effect on blood sugar) to 100 (big effect on blood sugar). Foods that cause a fast increase in blood sugar have a high GI. That is because the sugar in them is quickly processed by your digestive system and absorbed into your blood. They cause a “spike” in your blood sugar.
So, you can probably guess that pure glucose is given a GI rating of 100. On the other hand, chickpeas are right down there at a GI of 10.
Regarding GI: low is anything under 55; moderate is 56-69, and 70+ is considered a high GI food.
Remember, this is a measure of how fast a food is digested and broken down and how fast it spikes your blood sugar. It's not a measure of the sugar content within the actual food.
The speed at which carbohydrates are broken down and absorbed into your blood also depends on other components. Things like fibre and protein can slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream, and this can make even a high-sugar food, low on the GI scale.
So, lower GI foods are better at keeping your blood sugar levels stable because they don't increase your blood sugar level as fast.
FUN FACT: Can you guess which food has a GI of higher than 100? (Think of something super-starchy) White potatoes! They have a GI of 111.
Glycemic Load - Why is this Different?
Glycemic Load (GL) doesn’t take into account how quickly your blood sugar “spikes”, but it looks at how HIGH your blood sugar levels rise.
Glycemic Load depends on two things. First, how much sugar (even natural sugar) is actually in the food. Second, how much of the food is typically eaten.
Low GL would be 0-10, moderate GL would be 10-20, and high GL would 20+.
To evidence the difference between glycemic index and glycemic load let's look at bananas versus orange. They both raise your blood sugar in about the same amount of time but, the average banana raises the blood sugar twice as high (11) as the orange does (5). So, it contains more overall sugar than the same amount (120 g) of orange.
Don't forget, a high glycemic index is considered to be anything over 55. So a banana with a glycemic index value of 11 is still considerably low. So DON'T STOP EATING WHOLE FRUITS!
Why does all this matter?
People who have diabetes or pre-diabetes conditions like insulin resistance most definitely need to be more aware of the glycemic index and glycemic load of foods they are eating regularly. However, we ALL will notice a HUGE improvement in our energy, our moods, our weight control and our mental clarity if we pay attention to keeping our blood sugar levels more stable.
The GI and GL are just two factors to consider when it comes to blood sugar. Some high GI foods are pretty good for you but if you want to reduce the impact on your blood sugar, have them with a high-fibre or high-protein food.
The importance of detoxification
When starting out on a new weight loss regime or looking to restore our body's natural balance in order to feel and look healthier, you should consider undertaking a natural short-term detoxification programme.
The term "detoxification" should not scare you. When done properly, it is a natural process using natural, healthy foods and will have you feeling 10 years younger in no time flat!
When we detoxify the body, we take a huge burden off of our major organs that are responsible for keeping us in balance and running smoothly. It is a great way to improve digestion and begin the re-balancing process.
If you have been consuming a diet higher in sugar or starches than you would like to admit, and you are ready to make a change, my suggestion is two-fold:
1. Begin with a simple but effective, 7-10 day whole-food-based detoxification plan to cleanse the body of harmful toxins and stress-promoting foods; and,
2. Learn to move forward making healthier food choices that are lower than 55 on the glycemic index and where possible combine these foods with protein or fibre.
These are the first two action steps I would like you to take so you can reset and rebalance your body. You are then in the perfect, prime position to go full-steam ahead into your weight loss and health building strategy!
If you would like help getting started, BOOK YOUR FREE STRATEGY SESSION TODAY and let's put together a plan that will work for YOU.